Saturday, April 13, 2013

Got some stairs and 20 minutes? Then yes, you DO have time to exercise!

Happy Saturday.  And in the interest of spending as much of my weekend as possible not hiding behind my computer screen, I'll make this quick.

Yesterday at work, I was talking with a bunch of coworkers about - what else? - diet and exercise. Doesn't matter that I do both to the extreme while most of them seem to avoid both to the extreme, we all have our struggles, our desires to be better, do better, eat better, live better than we do right now.  And as usual, in the absence of fixing my own warped sense of these things, I am full of solutions for other people's "problems."  Especially when what they present isn't so much a problem as it is a situation that could benefit from a little strategizing.  So when one of my coworkers insisted that she simply couldn't find the time to exercise, I asked her how she spent her lunch break.

"Most days I just eat at my desk and keep working," she admitted.  I'm not judging. I  do the same thing.  But I also get up every day, without fail, to work out at 4:30 am.  She, on the other hand, has a built-in solution staring her in the face.

"How about eating and working a half hour later, and using your actual lunch break to take a break?"  I asked.

"I can't get a real workout in 30 minutes?" she laughed.

And that was it.  The challenge.  Anyone who knows me knows that, master of excuses and sophisticated procratination techniques that I often tend to be, I can't stand to watch anyone deprive him/herself of exercise, and at the slightest opening, I will barge in and try to help.

"I bet you can," was all I said.  And within the hour, I sent her the following.  (Keep in mind that we work on the 11th floor of a 32-story highrise, so this works for her.  If you don't have access to stairs ... what am I saying?  Everyone has access to stairs!)

Time (Mins)
*RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
Warm-up: Walk up and down stairs  - as many flights as you need to use up 3 minutes.
Skip up every other step before jogging back down. Repeat until you hit minute 5.
Run up stairs for 30 seconds without stopping.  Think SPRINT!  Then jog back down for the remaining 30 seconds.
*Curtseys (see below). Do a minute on each side.
Run up stairs for 1 minute without stopping. Think SPRINT again! Then jog back down for the remaining minute.
Walk up stairs sideways for 1 minute, then switch sides, leading with the opposite leg, for minute 2.  Jog down and repeat until you reach minute 11.
Repeat minutes 5-11
Cool down: walk up and down stairs

Do you see what I see?  Yes, that's right, she can do this not in 30 minutes (the length of her lunch break) but in 20.  So really, what's the excuse?  Three times a week, minimum, will give her enough of a burn to build muscle, melt fat, increase metabolism and energy, and - let's face it - get her away from her desk for a while.  For a nice change of scenery, take it outside on the weekends, or if you're lucky enough to have outside stairs at work.

To define some terms from the chart above:

*RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion is really just a fancy schmancy phrase for "how hard you  believe (perceive) yourself to be working (exerting)."  If you are one of those people who needs an "official definition" for everything, you can read  about RPE here. But since I am actually an AFAA-certified personal trainer (through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), you can trust me when I say that RPE is nothing more than your perception of how hard your heart and systems are working, usually based (as above) on a scale of 1-10, with 1 feeling like you are exerting almost no effort at all, and 10 feeling like you're at the absolute max you can possibly handle, where breathing is labored, muscles feel fatigued, and you can't even carry on a broken conversation (which, in some cases, brings sweet relief when all you want is to be left alone so you can finish your workout, already!).  Anyway, I digress as usual, but for obvious, and very different health and safety reasons, you don't want to remain at either a 1 or a 10 for very long.

*Curtseys are pretty much what you think they are.  Imagine yourself meeting a dignitary - the President of the United States, the Queen of England, Sir Elton John - and drop into your deepest curtsey.  And hold it.  Make it count.  Because really, the only dignitary in your midst is you, so respect yourself and make an effort here.  Stand at the bottom of the stairs, facing upstairs. Your feet should be pointed forward, about hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Then do the following:
  1. Right foot: steps behind left foot
  2. Both knees: bend
  3. Maintain straight posture from the waist up while you lower from the hips and sink into the curtsey.
  4. After a few seconds, lower a little more.  You want to feel fatigue but NOT pain (be mindful of knees here and straighten out of the bend if you start to feel knee pain)
  5. Then, straighten the knees and kick (gently, people, this isn't a street fight!) your right leg out to the right side with your foot flexed (toes pointed toward you) and return to starting position.
If I can figure out a way to video this, I'll attach a short instructional video here in a bit. But it's probably pretty easy - we've been curtesying all our lives, haven't we?  Or am I the only one that has probably had way too many occassions to experience that?

Either way, there you have it. A 20-minute, no excuses (as long as you're relatively healthy and have no serious knee or hip joint issues) workout that eliminates the "I don't have time before or after work" excuse.  If you want 40 minutes, double the above.  Only have time for a quick 10-minute break?  Cut the times in half.  And who knows, maybe 10 more minutes will present themselves later in the day.  Hint: if you log more than 5 television commercials in a day, you have 10 minutes to put your health on your "to do" list too.  Or perhaps instead. Just sayin.

So enjoy, and remember to breathe and hydrate and smile while you're doing this - all three have been known to save lives. Or at least make them more enjoyable.

Til next time,
~ Hasky

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